While many New Yorkers are scrambling to sign up for IDNYC to take advantage of all of the free memberships the card affords them, others are struggling to make use of the card in more practical matters.
There are currently more than 75 credit union and bank branches that take municipal IDs as valid identification from New Yorkers opening new bank accounts, according to the mayor's office.
But that number only amounts to about one third of all city banks, according to a report published by Comptroller Scott Stringer. And it doesn't include major chains like Chase, Citibank and Capital One, which have hundreds of locations throughout the five boroughs.
Advocates argue that the limited number of banks that accept IDNYC as primary identification poses a significant barrier to New Yorkers seeking affordable and accessible financial services — particularly undocumented immigrants, whom Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to serve when he rolled out the program earlier this year.
“This will be the first time they can get any kind of ID,” de Blasio said in January when he introduced the ID card. “It stands for everyone being respected, everyone being included, everyone having opportunity. This card epitomizes the values of this city.”
The mayor said the ID would provide proof of identity and basic city services to thousands of New Yorkers who had previously lived in the shadows.
DNAinfo has mapped out banks across the city that accept municipal IDs as primary IDs, as well as the concentration of immigrant populations in their surroundings. Neighborhoods are color-coded by the percentage of foreign-born residents in each, as recorded by the 2013 census.
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There are no banks that accept the ID as primary identification in Flushing, a heavily Asian-immigrant neighborhood. In Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst, one of the most diverse sections of Queens, there are only three banks that take the card as a primary identification document. Banks categorize some identification documents as "primary" — usually driver's licenses, state IDs, passports, and foreign-issued IDs—and others, such as credit cards and leases, as "secondary."
As a result, It's still particularly difficult to open a bank account as an undocumented immigrant, according to Jaime Weisberg, senior campaign analyst at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.
"If somebody doesn’t have a consulate card, or a valid passport," which can be expensive to renew, and "if they don’t have the proper documents all in one place, they can’t open an account,” said Weisberg, whose organization is urging federal regulators to issue stronger language about the validity of municipal IDs.
A report released last month from state Controller Thomas DiNapoli found that immigrants generated $257 billion in economic activity in New York City in 2013, roughly one-third of the city’s total economic output and nearly double the figure from 2000.
But many immigrants fall among the estimated 13 percent of all New York City households that lack basic checking accounts, compared to 7.7 percent of households nationwide, according to a report released by comptroller Stringer in June.
Access to banking services protects consumers from costly alternative financial services like cash-checking and money orders, provides them with a secure place to deposit their savings, and affords them lending opportunities to grow their nest eggs.
”It’s important for everyone to have a bank account because it allows people to establish a relationship with a financial institution, which is important for building credit and getting loans," said Anna Burnham, a community organizer at Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association in the South Bronx.
To make the ID more widely accepted, the city will need help from the federal government, Weisberg said.
This summer, federal regulators gave banks a green light to accept the municipal ID as sufficient verification of identity but warned them of the risk involved.
"Because the rule is risk-based, the bank must assess the risk presented by the customer," read a letter from the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors to city agencies administering the ID program.
Chase Bank, which had 391 locations in the five boroughs as of June 2014, decided against accepting IDNYC.
"We focus on fewer IDs to reduce possible error, fraud, operational risk," a bank official told DNAinfo.
When banks accept regional IDs from multiple municipalities, their tellers can find it more difficult to detect fradulent ones, the Chase official said.
Weisberg and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development said they're confident that the IDNYC — which requires documentation to prove one's identity and residence in the city — firmly establishes an immigrant cardholder's identity.
The mayor's office stood behind its plan to expand access to banking through the ID card.
"IDNYC is designed to expand access and opportunity for all New Yorkers, including the ability to access key banking services," a spokesman for the mayor's office said last week.
Correction: This article previously stated that you require three documents to obtain your IDNYC. You actually need "three points worth of documents to prove your identity and a one point document to prove your residency." Find out more here.